Book Talk: London orchestra misses Titanic, gets stuck on train

Thu Nov 7, 2013 3:02am EST
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - It is a part of local lore that the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) missed the maiden and only sailing of the Titanic which they were to have taken to make the first American tour of what was billed as the "world's best orchestra".

Though they avoided that fateful voyage, the 85 members of the orchestra still had what was for the time an adventurous trip, spending much of April 1912 living on a train in a whistle-stop tour of America as far west as Milwaukee before they returned to New York to sail back home.

"There was one seven-day period when they did 10 concerts and they traveled overnight," said Gareth Davies, principal flautist with today's LSO and author of the engaging and chatty "The Show Must Go On: On Tour with the LSO in 1912 & 2012".

"They had breakfast on the train, did a matinee concert, got back on the train, did an evening concert and got back on the train and traveled to another place, so they were grumbling quite a lot," Davies, who tours much more today than the orchestra did then, told Reuters in an interview.

Davies, who in addition to playing a wicked flute is the orchestra's blogger-in-chief, has one of the LSO's very own 1912 grumblers to thank for the delightful details he weaves into his narrative.

He wanted to mark the centenary of the trip with a book, but was at a loss for the vital inside scoop until the orchestra's archivist, Libby Rice, out of the blue received the diary of the principal timpanist at the time, Charles Turner.

"The granddaughter of the timpanist had found this pocket diary and Libby had transcribed it all and sent me the file and it was all those gaps - what did they eat, where did they travel, did they miss home, was it fun and all of this stuff was just there," Davies said.

"And as luck would have it two weeks later we were sent a second diary by the grandson of the second flute player and it filled in lots more gaps."   Continued...